Webpage created: June 11, 2018
Webpage updated: June 11, 2018
When Ham House was completed in 1639, on the site of an even older property, it was situated in the Tything of Weston Peverel within the Ancient Parish of Saint Andrew's, Plymouth, and its owner, Mr Robert Trelawny, was a Plymouth merchant.
But when the owner and occupier of the House awoke on the morning of Wednesday November 9th 1898 she found that Ham House was now within the Ancient Parish of Stoke Damerel and the Borough of Devonport.
The occupant was Miss Arthurine Trelawny Collins, the daughter of Mr Arthur Luce Trelanwy Collins and his wife Sophia. She clearly did not like her given Christian name as she was recorded in the 1891 and 1901 census as Miss Catherine Trelawny Collins.
In its final form, Ham House was H-shaped, constructed of granite and limestone, with the main entrance on the southern side between two wings. The date 1639 was carved into the lintel above the main doorway. The House was remodelled in 1759 and again in 1875, when it was restored to more of its 17th century appearance. The main entrance opened directly into the main hall, in which there was a good old oak chimneypiece that had been transferred form the Trelawny's former home in Looe Street, Plymouth. Although there were two rooms above the hall it was considered that at one time the ceiling may have gone up to the roof. The floor of the hall was paved with squares of white stone, enhanced with small black stones of a lozenge shape at the junction of every fourth white stone.
The east wing was used as the drawing-room while the west wing was partly the dining-room and partly a study. There were granite fireplaces in the first two rooms but a wooden one in the Adams style in the study. Attached to one of the chimneys was an old bell devoid of any inscription.
Outside in the grounds was a small, covered well known as Saint Catherin's or Jacob's Well.
At the time of the the transfer into Devonport the only permanent family resident was Miss Arthurine (or Catherine) Trelawny Collins. She was in her early seventies and was supported by a Lady's Maid, a House Maid, a Cook, a Footman, and a Coach Man. The latter, Mr John Dinner, from East Stonehouse, had been the Footman in 1891. There were, of course, temporary visitors to the House: at the time of the census in 1901 there were a Niece, a Grandson, two Cousins and a 3-years-old visitor in residence.
The last occupant of Ham House was the Reverend William Trelawny-Ross. In 1939 the staff had been reduced to one domestic servant. During the Second World War the south-east corner, the former drawing-room, was damaged, and in 1945 the House became the property of Plymouth City Council, who allocated it and its 12 acres of ground to the Education Committee. They in turn let the ground floor to the Libraries Committee for use as a public library while other ground floor and first floor rooms were used to store books. The Ham Branch Library opened in 1948. One of the Plymouth Library Service's staff, Mr Verley James Wallen, and his family were accommodated in a Caretaker's Flat on the first and second floors, adjacent to the war-damaged part of the building. When the Wallen family moved to other premises the flat was let to a Mr Searle. After a considerable problem from vandalism, the Library was closed in the 1970s and Ham House was divided into apartments. Mr Keith Perry, who used to live nearby, has said that the exterior was painted a garish green colour.